A Jew under the burden of a serious problem came to the Baal Shem Tov, seeking relief and aid. He burst into tears and begged the Baal Shem Tov to help him with his mighty prayers.

Was it a matter of health? Offspring? Money? We don’t know.

What everyone does know is the extraordinary love and dedication the Baal Shem Tov maintained for every single Jew. He felt so bad for this suffering individual, and was ready to do everything in his power to relieve his plight, but with his spiritual vision he could already see that there was nothing he personally could do to help him.

The Baal Shem Tov went over to his bookshelf and pulled out a volume of Talmud. Everyone who received a coin from Job became blessed.It was the tractate called Bava Basra. He leafed through it and his eye caught a passage at the bottom of page 15b, “‘Everyone who received a coin from Iyov (Job) became blessed’—because Iyov was successful in tzedakah, in his charity giving.”

He realized that if he was drawn to this particular passage, it was no coincidence. Rather, it was divine intervention. Somehow, this was the key by which this Jew in dire need could be saved.

He pondered deeply. What was the message here? Finally, he thought he truly realized Heaven’s intention. He recalled:

In the town of Brody lived a Jew named Shabsai Meir, a man who knew how to study Torah and donated generously to worthy causes. In the merit of his always giving altruistically and with a good heart, G‑d had blessed him with great wealth. He, in turn, prayed to the Holy One for “success in tzedakah.” This too was granted him. None of the tzedakah he distributed went to undeserving hands [the first interpretation in that same tractate, 9b], and anyone who received any sort of contribution from him had good things happen to them. Indeed, his requests from G‑d were always fulfilled. Not that he ever asked for anything for himself. He didn’t alter his personal lifestyle at all, and his house was still the same as it was.

Really, the only recognizable change was the increasingly large sums he utilized for tzedakah. Significant amounts were given anonymously.Even here, significant amounts were given anonymously, with neither the recipients nor anyone else knowing the source of the gifts.

On occasion, this wealthy man would give away more than even he could afford. At such times he would pray that he merit increased success and increased tzedakah. To these prayers G‑d would always respond, and so Shabsai Meir became even richer. Also, the heavenly court ruled that he was worthy for G‑d to fulfill his request to always be successful in tzedakah.

When the Baal Shem Tov thought of this special individual, he immediately understood why Heaven had put it into his mind to take out a volume of Talmud, and why he had been guided to that particular tractate and passage. It was all so that he would recall to mind Shabsai Meir of Brody! The Baal Shem Tov was well aware of the heavenly court’s decree concerning R. Shabsai Meir and his “success in tzedakah.” Perhaps he could be an instrument of salvation for the unfortunate Jew who was so desperately seeking help.

The Baal Shem Tov turned back to the man in front of him, who by now was becoming somewhat uncomfortable at the Baal Shem Tov’s prolonged silence. The Baal Shem Tov told him to travel to Brody, and there to look up a man called Shabsai Meir. “This Shabsai Meir,” the Baal Shem Tov explained, “has a great reputation for hospitality, and surely will invite you for Shabbos. You should accept, and after Shabbos, when the time comes for you to depart from Brody, thank him appropriately for his hospitality, and then ask him to give you a blessing for heavenly salvation in the merit of his great accomplishments in tzedakah.”

The Jew went to Brody, of course, and spent Shabbos as one of the many guests of Shabsai Meir. He was deeply impressed by his host, who served each of his guests generously from the best that he had. On Sunday, when he went to take leave of his host, he requested his blessing in the way the Baal Shem Tov had instructed.

R. Shabsai Meir blessed him fervently with all his heart.

It worked.Shabsai Meir was able to save him through the merit of his many deeds of kindness.

Even though the Baal Shem Tov himself with all his powers couldn’t help this Jew directly, R. Shabsai Meir was able to save him through the merit of his many deeds of kindness.

Connection to weekly Torah reading: Genesis 26:12–14 and commentaries.

Translated-adapted from Ahavat Yisrael #10 (based on a letter from the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, R. Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn).

Biographical note:
>Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov [“Master of the Good Name”], a unique and seminal figure in Jewish history, founded the Chassidic movement, and revealed his own identity as an exceptionally holy person, on his 36th birthday, 18 Elul 1734. He passed away on the festival of Shavuot in 1760. He wrote no books, although many claim to contain his teachings. One available in English is the excellent annotated translation of Tzava’at Harivash, published by Kehot.

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